The rollercoaster ride of supporting Everton continues. This week against Arsenal, we didn't turn up. Last week, we won a great victory over Chelsea, but let's not forget, until Lukaku's magic, we looked average.
The week before, we let a 2-0 lead slip to a 2-3 defeat to West Ham. So time to take the emotion out of it and look at the facts. We have the best squad of players for years, but a less-than-average team. The question is why?
I have never managed a football team, but I have managed teams successfully for years. A good manager builds a team, brings confidence and belief, and gets the best out of each team member. In essence, the total is greater than sum of the components. If you want to put names on it, I would call it strategy, tactics, process, and the gut instinct to know what and when to make changes. It's also about making the difficult seem easy and the challenges fun. Not easy and not a science it's more of an art form... and yes, I have seen great teams carry poor managers and great managers let down by a poor teams.
So what do we have at Everton? Perhaps equally what are the other factors that influence the team and the manager.
Firstly, let's look at the club pre Martinez. We had no money, a weak squad, but a manager who could manage a team. I know some fans will never forgive him or recognise his achievements, but I remember a top-four performance with a team spearheaded by Marcus Bent and games where we had Hibbert playing centre-back. We fought above our weight, we almost achieved silverware, and we lost our not-so-weakly-thought-of manager to Manchester United to replace Sir Alex Ferguson.
I will say no more one way or the other about Moyes or his credentials as they are what they are, despite the rhetoric from some. The club's finances have improved with TV money and at long last a billionaire owner to be, as promised by Mr Kenwright. The future is much brighter... or is it?
We have great fans who have great expectations and the will to voice their feelings. They have rightly challenged the club's failure to deliver this season, though I think it is inherent in all Evertonians to have great optimism that the wait for success will one day end. Perhaps now there is more cause to believe than ever before during the last 20 years. This is mixed with the frustration of having a team under-performing and a manager slowly losing even his most staunch supporters.
Okay, was the Arsenal game a hangover from the euphoria of beating Chelsea and progressing to an FA Cup semi-final? If yes, then it's hugely disappointing. If no, then it's hugely disappointing that the inconsistency of having world beaters one week and a pub team the next continues.
I liked Martinez to start with; he's a nice guy, but probably lucky to win the FA Cup with Wigan and become Everton manager after a relegation season at Wigan. Then again, I think Everton were an enigma. Not enough potential to interest a top manager and possibly a poisoned chalice for anyone tasked with following the over-performing Moyes! Perhaps we are where we were always meant to be, at the end of one chapter and at the start of another?
When I look at the team, I ask why we did not buy a top 'keeper before Howard declined and while Robles remains a good backup at best. The defence on paper looks good with options, but crumbles under moderate pressure with little sign of any underlying confidence. Stones looks a shadow of the player he was and he is not the only one. Indeed there are too many which is a big part of the problem. We should have a really positive spine to the team, but in reality we have no backbone.
We can't hold a lead, change the shape of the team, or adapt to beat better teams or better organised teams. The home form is dreadful which begs the question: Why has 'Fortress Goodison' become a chocolate fireguard?
I think I can answer this on the basis that we are at our best on the counter; at home, we simply go full out attack and don't play to our strengths. Top teams cover, keep a defensive line, and defend from the front. We don't, for some unknown reason. Sad thing is, we are getting worse and, without Barry, we are very poor. Fans get on the players' backs and pretty quickly we struggle to find a pass, which means we lose the ball and have to defend, which clearly we can't do to any acceptable standard.
I can't blame fans for wondering why a player who earns more in half a week then they do in a year can't make a pass, hold a line, or defend. Imagine turning up for work and being unable to do what you are paid to do. What would happen next?
What next is an interesting conundrum for the new board. Martinez cannot deliver at the highest level and his persistence with trying to outscore the opposition is fundamentally flawed. He is unfortunately one of those managers who has been blessed with a team where the whole is less than the component parts. Sticking with Martinez can't be an option, but hopefully he will leave on a high with silverware in the bag and ironic cup wins at both ends of his time with Everton.
Why I think this will happen is simple. The strength of Bill Kenwright is that he is a true blue and emotionally attached to Everton. Mr Moshiri will not be emotionally attached and will simply do what he feels needs to be done to take his investment forward. This will start with a new manager hopefully blessed with what is required to breath fresh life into our great club.